Walking up the stairs at the Mississippi Arts Center, one might expect just another exhibit. But through the heavy wood and metal doors, Islam’s history and culture—rich with colors and textures—show that it is much more than an ordinary exhibit. The International Museum of Muslim Culture, the only one of its kind in the nation, displays exhibits to educate the public about Islamic history and culture.
Co-founders Okolo Rashid, executive director of the museum, and Emad Al-Turk opened the museum in 2001, in conjunction with the Mississippi Museum of Art’s “Majesty of Spain” exhibit. That exhibit, “Islamic Moorish Spain: Its Legacy to Europe and the West,” was intended to only last through the “Majesty of Spain” but turned into something more.
“We thought that it was important to show that aspect of Spanish culture and that aspect of Islam influence,” Rashid said. “That led us to do a companion exhibit.”
After the events of Sept. 11 that same year, Rashid thought she would have to close the doors for good.
“We thought we were going to have to close it right then. We didn’t think people were going to want to come,” she said. “But interesting enough, we had school teachers that brought their students. … They said they thought that this was a better learning environment for their students than what they were learning in the media.”